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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Big Bankers and the U.S. Government: A Coalition Circumventing Accountability on Wall Street

It is interesting that the U.S. Department of Justice did not pursue the fraudulent bankers on Wall Street not only during the Bush presidency, but also the following presidency, that of Barak Obama.  Not coincidentally, Goldman Sachs was the single biggest campaign contributor to Obama’s 2008 candidacy for president. It would seem that Wall Street had both political parties in a net by the time of the financial crisis in September, 2008. A sector of the economy being able to control both major parties is bad for not only industrial policy (i.e., favoritism), but also democracy. In short, a government should have enough strength to constrain a business sector, rather than being subject to it. The latter condition implies continued vulnerability should greed again get ahead of itself on Wall Street. By nature, greed, if allowed to go on running on its own steam, accumulates more and more momentum.

The full essay is at "Wall Street and the U.S. Government."

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Case for a Presiding President in Russia

On December 31, 2010, a Russian judge sentenced Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian tycoon who had been imprisoned in 2003 after defying Vladimir Putin, to an additional six years in prison. According to The New York Times, "It was a politically tinged decision that undermined President Dmitri Medvodev."[1] Leonid Goman of the Right Cause Party in Russia agreed. "It was obviously a political, not a judicial, decision." He went on to say that in general terms, "corruption is endemic, government power is often abused and senior politicians are rarely, if ever, held accountable for misdeeds."[2]  Clearly, Prime Minister Putin was still very much in control in Russia.  His message was that wealthy businessmen should not interfere in Russian politics. What a contrast to American politics, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United case!  Khodorkovsky was at one time the richest person in Russia, having been one of the oligarchs who bought government assets at bargain prices after the fall of the USSR, but he financed opposition parties in a political system that was anything but democratic.

1. Clifford Levy, "Russia Extends Prison Sentence of Tycoon 6 Years,” The New York Times, December 31, 2010, p. A1.
2. Ibid. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Glimpsing behind the Curtain: Vice President Lyndon Johnson and the Kennedy Assassination

Robert Ross interviewed Lyndon Johnson’s mistress, Madeleine Duncan Brown what Ross titled, “The Clint Murchison Meeting in Dallas November 21, 1963.” The interview took place sometime before her death on June 22, 2002. The content is revealing, and she comes across as very credible as it is obvious she still had feelings even then for the late president. She also had a credible motive for opening up to the American people. So in watching the interview, I did not view it as just another conspiracy theory; I paid attention. Sometimes the truth finally emerges in plain sight, rather than through complicated theories as in Oliver Stone’s film, JFK (1991). The most revealing facts to emerge from the interview are that Jack Ruby, who killed Oswald just two days after the assassination, had been at the meeting at Murchison’s mansion on the night before the assassination, and that LBJ told Madeleine while leaving Murchison’s house after the meeting, “After tomorrow, those SOB’s will never embarrass me again.” That the official narrative from the Warren Commission would still carry weight as the default account at least in the first two decades of the next century astounded me. At the very least, all of Madeleine’s knowledge of the players should have caused at least a tremor when the interview was made public. The status quo has that much inertia. Even so, the American public can gleam from Brown’s account just how different the reality of the power-brokers in (and outside of) the U.S. Government can be from what the public knows. Unfortunately, the patina or gloss even of acting can have incredible staying-power even in the face of the facts revealed. Members of the political elite and their companions may want to protect their legacies in old age, or want the freedom of conscience that comes from the impunity that can only come with death. The resulting piecemeal facts must justify themselves, however, whereas the long-standing official version often has the benefits of not only protective power and entrenchment that comes with having been the default for so long, but also a coherent (i.e., contrived) narrative. 

The full essay is at "On President Lyndon Johnson: The Man."

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Star Is Born

The film, A Star Is Born (2018), has the narrative structure chiefly of two intersecting character arcs. They are multi-level in the sense that both interior emotional states and exterior vocational popularity change for both Jackson and Ally. Each of them must deal with feelings of insecurity at some point and both are singers. The antagonist is interesting as well, as it is a character that plays a small but decisive role in how the narrative ends.

The full essay is at "A Star Is Born."